Cognitive behavioral therapy is a method of therapy that looks at the connection between a person’s thoughts and beliefs, and their behaviors and actions. It’s a versatile form of therapy that’s useful for treating a variety of cases. This versatility makes cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, one of the most common forms of therapy practiced today.
People who show unhealthy or destructive patterns of behavior tend to carry negative beliefs about themselves and the world. CBT helps to guide these individuals through the process of gaining awareness of their thoughts and then assists in changing their thoughts and mindsets. Through changing one’s mindset, a change in behavior tends to follow as well.
Why is cognitive behavioral therapy such a useful treatment method? How does it work and who can it help? Could CBT provide you or your loved one the help you need? Are you looking for cognitive behavioral therapy in Pennsylvania? Continue reading to learn more about CBT and how it’s used today.
Understanding Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Analytical psychotherapy was popular in the 1960s when Dr. Aaron Beck created cognitive behavioral therapy. He noticed the inner dialogue that ran through his patients’ heads during their day to day life. He questioned the impact of this internal narration on their behavior, and how much of it they weren’t even conscious of.
He used the term “automatic thoughts” to describe the almost rapid-fire way the mind interprets what is happening in a person’s outside world. He noticed that if they viewed themselves, their friends and family, and their world in a negative light, they displayed negative behavior. Conversely, those who carried positive beliefs about their surroundings usually showed positive actions.
Beck realized that it isn’t always the event itself that affects a person, but the way they interpret and perceive that event. They assign meaning to it, whether positive or negative, that determines the way it affects them moving forward. Beck shifted the entire focus of psychotherapy from the analysis of the past to one focused on the present moment.
How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?
Most people have little awareness of the extent of their thought life and the impact it has. When someone struggles with a person or an issue in their life, they have dozens of thought patterns connected to those struggles.
People think about it regularly in one way or another, whether or not they realize it. These thought patterns, oftentimes irrational or catastrophic beliefs, affect the way people approach and look at their life.
A therapist using a CBT approach may spend some time on their patient’s history to get an idea of who they are. But CBT is a solution-focused therapy modality that emphasizes the importance of timely results. The main focus of treatment is not on the past, it’s on the way the patient views the world around them today.
Therapists teach their patients to notice these automatic, unhelpful thought patterns. Patients learn to identify specific ideas and question how those ideas make them feel. Then the therapist and patient work together to reframe these negative interpretations.
The goal of the therapist is to help change the meanings that a patient has assigned to certain events, situations, and people. As their view of these things change, they start experiencing a shift in the way they conduct themselves.
Who Can CBT Help?
CBT is a versatile form of therapy because of its simple focus on thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. These affect every single person, from those with relationship problems to those with serious mental illnesses.
Cognitive behavioral therapy helps people struggling with a variety of issues by teaching people how to:
- Identify harmful beliefs and resulting emotions
- Change negative automatic thought patterns
- Develop coping skills for dealing with difficult situations
- Learn more effective ways of communication
- Establish healthier relationships with those around them
CBT can help individuals who live with a wide range of mental health issues, such as:
- Substance or alcohol use disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Eating disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Sleep disorders
Some research has also found that CBT helps patients who live with chronic pain, fatigue, or other medical illnesses.